PRS Guitars, The Luthier's Choice?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by toothace, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. toothace

    toothace At least I'm good at dentistry

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    Latest podcast from the guys at Crimson Guitars. Interesting to listen to their take on the Man's creations.

     
  2. markd21

    markd21 New Member

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    Neat. As a recent convert to PRS, I get where the guy said he couldn't get on with the scale length. I tried the brand several times over the year - always going for 24 fret models. Could NEVER get into them. I always wanted to, but the 24 fret models were just "weird" to me. Not to mention I HATED the HFS/Vintage Bass pickups. The rotary switch was a hassle live (well, still is when I play my older CU22 in the avatar). I always ended up letting them go to get another USA Jackson or Musicman. When I finally tried the 22 fret models I was good to go. Weird that the two frets made a huge difference, but they did.

    The one thing that was brought up, which I have heard MANY times from people, is how the PRS has no "character". Often I find that when having discussions with other local guitarists before or after a show, they will always (first) comment on how they can't believe I am actually gigging those "expensive, rip-off guitars" and (second) that they don't sound right - they don't have a good tone. That's usually the bit BEFORE the band plays. After, the same people will come up and ask what modifications I made to make the guitar "sound good". I laugh and tell them the guitar is stock.

    Personally, based on my own experience/conversion, I think that a player has to be in a certain place to understand the quality and value of a PRS. I know in my situation I wasn't pleased with the idea of modding a $3K guitar. It had to be PERFECT in order for me to be satisfied. When I was playing Jackson it was a PC-1 or Custom Shop guitars. My thought process was, "Why mod a PRS when, for a little more, I can get a Jackson that is made 100% to my specs?" Eventually, as PRS grew and changed (22 frets, then lower output pickups, different neck profiles, different finish) I found the "right" one. It was about the brand coming to the table with a guitar that pleased me without need for modification. Now, I am exclusively PRS - nine Core and two S2 guitars that get rotated bi-weekly for gigs.

    I wanted one the minute I saw one in 1989 at Thoroughbred Music. Took until 2016 before I found the right combination of specs to make me a convert.

    I did find it interesting how the luthier and tech were all about the guitar but the player wasn't. I found most of his reasons for poo-poo-ing PRS to be the typical baloney of players I have met that are too stuck in tradition - the guys that think the Les Paul is the ultimate in guitar DESIGN (not denying the LP tone is awesome).

    Still, a cool watch!! Thanks for posting it!
     
    #2 markd21, Jul 14, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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  3. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Great post!
     
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  4. markd21

    markd21 New Member

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    Thanks, man. I am a huge champion for the brand when out gigging. We play a variety of markets around FL, and we're looking at hitting southern GA and AL too in the next few months. Doing an original set at 45-60 minutes allows us to mingle and shoot the breeze with a lot of people at the venues. Inevitably I always get a chance to show off the guitars and talk about why I dig them so much.

    You'd be surprised at how many people still have NO idea about the brand, or if they have they still have never seen one in person. Girls are instantly drawn to them because they are "pretty". Players are never quite sure if the guitar are "real" or Chinese knock-offs. They are intrigued by the instrument but are often pre-biased based on internet/forum trash talk. It's usually something to the effect of, "Those guitars sound funny" or "Man, those things are just art....sound-wise they suck." Sometimes you get a guy that seems a bit more experienced that says something like, "It's like a Les Paul that sounds thin" or "It's a jack-of-all-trades, but doesn't nail any tone right." This invariably gets followed up with, "WHY do you play those?" or "What convinced you they sound good?"

    There is never really the time to totally get into it, so usually I focus on feel and the pickups/clarity. Only one of my guitars doesn't have stock pickups - and that is just because PRS doesn't make a gold covered 57/08. So when talking about the stock guitars I will talk about the scale length and neck profile. I will mention I like a fatter neck and that the wide/fat and pattern necks have the right girth I like. I will mention that I played a Jackson PC-1 for 16 years and that has a HUGE neck. When it comes to the scale length, dudes are confused when I mention 25". They don't have a frame of reference. Instantly I am asked WHY did PRS chose a non-standard scale. I laugh and say they gotta ask Paul. I will tell them that it's not ONLY PRS that has it. Danelectro had a 25" scale. I will talk about Fender Jaguars, Duo Sonics and Mustangs having shorter scales and how people don't mind. I'll get asked what I played before. When I say Jackson they are shocked. I bring it back to scale length by saying that while the Jackson has a Fender scale, it also has the Floyd Rose and when you bend strings with the Floyd your bridge tilts forward, making the bend easier. I equate that to how a 25" scale feels - like bending with a Floyd. Metal guys or players with Floyds INSTANTLY get it. The Gibson and Fender guys, not so much - it always takes an extra step. With the Gibson guys I'll mention that when I would be playing my SG onstage there would be nights where maybe I had a drink too many before getting onstage and I would always OVER-bend on the B and high E string. The scale was TOO easy to play. With the PRS it's like playing the Gibson with a string gauge .01 (or whatever) higher than you use without sacrificing the feel of the strings you are used to using. That seems to make sense to them. With Fender guys it's the hardest. The 25.5" scale seems to be the most common, and to most players, the best. Fender guys take more convincing that the 25" scale isn't a PRS "gimmick to be different". What I usually start with is how, until you are warmed up, bending notes can take slight more effort - especially if using 11 or 12 gauge strings. I'll mention playing a tele and how it's an amazing instrument, but it can be really unforgiving if you are having a bad night. Bends can be rough, slurring notes can be difficult, etc. They usually counter with, "Well, that's lack of technique!!" I have to smile and go the extra step. Sometimes I'll let the player try the guitar for a couple minutes unplugged. After trying it out they are surprised at the ease of bending, but are often annoyed that they miss frets, etc. From there we talk about getting used to the guitar. Some guys are open to it, some are right frustrated and change the subject, saying "It's a nice guitar, but not for me." At that point you smile and they either walk away or talk about something else. The guys that are open to discussing further want to know how I got used to it. I say it was simple - I played the guitar for a couple hours. We have a laugh and then they ask if I switch around a lot. I tell them, "Not anymore - these guitars felt so right that I sold all the others." But, I also mention that before doing that I did switch back and forth between a Gretsch, PRS, and a tele and that it only took a minute or so to get used to it. They seem to accept that.

    As far as the sound? That's easy. I tell them that I 100% agree about PRS sound "weird" and "wrong" with the old models. That usually shocks people. We laugh. It's always followed with, "What changed?" I mention the body thickness changing when the McCarty came out. I mention the longer heel (which sometimes turns into a debate resulting in letting somebody actually TRY the guitar and feel the heel vs. upper fret access). I talk about PRS moving to lower output pickups. Here is where I get a perplexing look. My band could be considered "classic metal" - basically pre-thrash "metal". I play with a very thick, heavily driven sound that is still clear enough to allow open chords to ring fairly clear. I have to explain that my sound comes more from the amp than the pickups. I'll talk about how when you have a lower output pickup can use your amp's gain and volume more effectively because you are sending a cleaner signal to the preamp. I'll mention that with the modern amps available they often have 5 to 7 tube gain stages in the preamp vs. the 80s when you had 3 gain stages. The lower the gain stages the more you want your pickup to hammer the first stage. That with an amp that has seven stages of gain when you hammer it with an active or high gain pickup you are creating a recipe for mud...meaning you have to over EQ or add extra processing to your sound to compensate. With PRS moving to more balanced, lower output pickups it enabled me to be able have a "cleaner" overdriven tone that improved my technique and helped me sound clearer onstage. People will usually nod at the logic even if they don't agree 100%. This is when I am asked what pickup did I use before in my Jacksons. "The Seymour Duncan JB lowered about as far as I could get it, or before that - the DiMarzio PAF Pro in the 80s."

    When asked how this caused the guitar to sound different than the old ones, I mention that the HFS stands for "hot, fat, screams" and that is EXACTLY what it was. I will also mention that with the thinner body and overall tone of those pickups sometimes the PRS came across as having a weird midrange. That was always my problem - my Rivera amps were mid heavy to begin with and the HFS clashed HARD with the tonal make up of the amp. With Paul making more balanced pickups with the changes to the body and neck I found the guitar to be more sonically pleasing.

    People find it VERY interesting and it makes them MUCH more curious to try the guitar out on their own. DO they convert? Beats me, but it is fun having the conversations because in the field the PRS seems to be a love or LOATHE guitar. People seem to have their mind made up without ever playing one.
     
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  5. stratlanta

    stratlanta How do brushstroke birds fly?

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    So, I'm also pretty new to PRS. I owned one or two many years ago - maybe 10 or 12 years ago - but only recently have I come back to them. I cut my teeth on Fenders. I'll always have a love for Stratocasters, but in recent years the purity of the Telecaster has appealed to me more than Strats. I also made a significant trip through Gibson-land, and I do truly love a good Gibson. I still own a fantastic 1960 True Historic reissue, an SG, a Firebird and a Johnny A. I just love guitars and have also recently developed an amp addiction that might require a 12 step program.. haha. So that's my baseline; my reference set, if you will.

    With all of that said, one of the things that I find very, very appealing about PRS in general is that (as far as I can tell) PRS as a company are not developing guitars to chase some hyper-specific and possibly mythical tone from 50 years ago. To me, a PRS is a PRS. It's a self contained musical instrument that is designed to be the modern result of all the things we've supposedly learned about guitar in the past 100 years. It is an instrument, and a brand, that is in a nearly perpetual state of refinement. The attitude at PRS seems to be "how do we continue to do this even better than we did yesterday" rather than "how do we replicate one unicorn instrument that made one unicorn sound in 1968?" And I love that about PRS. Maybe this will happen eventually, but for now, if I never have to hear/read a conversation about how the skirts or numbers on a reissue's knobs don't look exactly like they did in 1959, I'll be just as happy as I can be.

    But that extends to "tone" too. When I hear people say that a PRS doesn't sound like a Gibson or a Fender, my visceral reaction is to say "EXACTLY!!". If I wanted a guitar that sounded like one of those two, I'd buy one of those two. And I have. And I will again. But to me, the PRSi that I own are flawlessly executed musical instruments that have their own sound, feel and character. And there are zero compromises made to get there. Once you accept that, or if you CAN accept that, then you can genuinely enjoy the PRS experience. If you can't, and you are going to doggedly pursue the exact sound (as your ears perceive them) of "Beano" or "Little Wing" and you can't get past the perception that only one type of guitar can do that, then you'll never accept PRS as a legitimate part of guitar history. But they are and they will continue to be. You have to love them for what they are and not for what you want them to be.

    I learned this in a very interesting way (well, interesting to me anyway.. haha). As mentioned on this site before, the guitar that brought me back to PRS was a Paul's Guitar that I came across sort of accidentally online. I saw it and couldn't get it out of my head for weeks. I couldn't take it any longer and pulled the virtual trigger on it. When it arrived it was, as you'd imagine, stunning. But plugged in, I just was struggling with it and I made a rash decision to sell it. It actually sold, and the minute it left my house I missed it. I felt like I didn't really give it a chance. Luckily the buyer was a flake and returned it - when he said he wanted to send it back I was actually relieved. When I got it back, I decided I was going to give the guitar a chance to be what it was, and not what I expected it to be. And that made all the difference. I love that guitar and it led to a Hollowbody II and a McCarty 594. And I'm eyeballing another one now that would be pretty special..

    So anyway, I apologize for the rant, but I've been wanting to get that out of my system for a while now because I think that most of the people here "get it". Many never will, and that's fine too. But I for one, am thrilled to have guitars that I never have to make excuses for in terms of quality, that are incredibly versatile tonally, and that I feel are advancing the design and build of electric guitars. Yep, I own a bunch of others and I love those too. They all have their place. If you don't compare them through the lens of "this one is BETTER than that one" you can start to enjoy them all for what they are. I feel the same way about guitar players - when we stop trying to evaluate who is better than whom, we'll all be better off. But then what would the internet do with itself with all of that free time?

    How does this relate to that posted podcast? Well I got as far as "it's somewhere between a Fender and a Gibson" - that inspired all of the nonsense above... LOL.
     
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  6. markd21

    markd21 New Member

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    Well said, and I totally agree, lol!!
     
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  7. Parralax view

    Parralax view New Member

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    In large part, it seems that PRS's undeserved reputation is based on one thing to begin with, Price/Customer Base. I acquired mine long before joining forums, listening to what others had to say both in jokes and in seriousness. I could find no wrong to my ears with what I was cradling. I've had LP's, Strats, etc. loved them all. Don't have a one of the original purchases anymore. My PRS was a gift, so my ears were sort of mute due to it. I have played it out on numerous occasions over the years and found nothing wanting. like another poster said, they may not be what you are actually looking for, if that was the case, your original thought should have been your purchase.

    I came back to this to say that I was posting almost the same topic on another forum just today. I explained that it was a gift I wasn't turning away. Also that the TSA guy in Dallas that looked at it before we closed and locked and zip tied it for travel could only say "I ain't never seen a PRS guitar afore, man that's purdy"...
     
    #7 Parralax view, Jul 18, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017

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